I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga because I wanted to race one last time before calling it a year and Chattanooga is relatively easy to get to from Virginia. I also really enjoy the women-only format of the pro race, which typically pays a little more and deeper, not to mention the whole race, from pro meeting to finish line, just feels much more civilized. But I really didn’t bargain for how hard the race would end up being.
I’m sure most people will agree that the greatest thing about IMCHOO is the swim. Its an in water start, which means no running or diving, and downstream. I knew the times would be fast and decided to take a little risk to see if I could hang on Kelly Williamson’s feet. So I sprinted out pretty hard and hopped right on, it seemed to be going ok until it wasn’t – about 10 seconds later I found myself swimming solo although I was pretty certain I had some ladies on me, but I couldn’t be sure. After some shuffling and a little confusion with buoys, I knew we had a small group of three, which I was surprised by as there were many similar speed swimmers in the pack.
I exited the water with Skye Moench and Liz Lyles, who are both stronger than me on the bike. But I wanted to see how long I could push and hold off the girls coming from behind. I pushed the first 10 miles to keep them in sight and then continued to keep the pressure on. This was probably a mistake as before the 50 mile mark I was already wondering when the damn bike would be over and I never really rallied after that. At half way, I started getting passed by the other ladies one at a time and would try to hang on for a second before deciding the pace was too hard and letting them go. At an aid station around 90 miles I dropped my chain which got jammed against my frame. In the process of getting it back on the front ring I must have bent my rear derailleur and after that my chain would skip around on my cassette every pedal stroke, it was infuriating as would go from hard to easy gear and back again. Needless to say, I was happy to get off the bike.
Running felt ok and miles were ticking by. I knew that my pace was more or less on track coming through 7 miles, but after that I was definitely starting to feel the heat. Mentally this was difficult as there are very few parts of the course where you can see your competitors. So there is no way to know if everyone is suffering or if you’re just having a bad day. At 15 miles I was slowing down and feeling real bad. I was headed into a dark place literally questioning all of my life decisions that got me to this moment. I was headed towards tears when I finally snapped back to reality and gave myself a very stern talking to, just like that I got my shit together. I think it also helped that the sun went behind some clouds. I found a little pep in my step. I started to appreciate the fact that I was actually running and not THAT slow.
Finishing was fantastic for so many reasons. Mainly because I was happy to be out of the inferno, but also because we had so many friends racing and we got to share our war stories of how horrendous the heat was on the run. It was also great to have my mom there who is happy to watch me race but I think mainly shows up to chill and hang out for a few days.
For the first time I also had two athletes that I coach racing. It’s very rare that I’m able to see their races between working, training, and racing myself, something has to give and unfortunately that’s usually “on the ground” support. I’m just so happy that I got to be there for Sarah K and Bridget, both did fantastic, and I also got to know them both a little better, which is huge for our coaching relationship.
In the end, despite some suffering, which is par for the course in Ironman, Chattanooga was an A+ and I’m happy to end the season on a positive note. Next stop will be Ironman Hawaii to support Nate and hang out with some more friends!